TORONTO, ON –While job creation gets top billing at Ontario party leaders’ campaign pit stops, for parents like Brooke Richardson, the mother of three young children and a PhD student, this election is all about child care.
“What, if elected, will they do to expand affordable non-profit child care and keep existing centres from closing?” she asked at a media conference today outside the Ontario Legislature.
Richardson, one of a group of parents and early childhood educators at the media conference, said that if party leaders want their vote, they need to do better on child care.
For starters, they want party leaders to commit to substantial investment in building a real system of affordable licensed programs. This would include strengthening safety and quality standards and increasing wages for early childhood educators.
“Jobs are important. But surely they can’t talk about jobs and the economy and be blissfully unaware that although parents need child care to go work, school or training, child care is in dire straits. Spaces are unavailable for tens of thousands of families on waitlists and cost more than university tuition. Many community-based programs are on life support and centres keep closing their doors. More than 20 high quality municipal centres have closed because provincial funding is too low,” said Richardson.
The group, which includes the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC), the Association of Early Childhood Educators, Ontario (AECEO), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Advocates for Progressive Childcare Policy (APCP) called on leaders to commit to raising low child care staff wages and to an emergency investment of $300 million to prevent more centre closures. They also called on the leaders to commit to reintroducing legislation tightening requirements for unlicensed child care. The new legislation died with the election call.
The party forming the next Ontario government, they said, should also set aside child care regulation changes proposed last December. Changes should be considered only if they strengthen program quality within a new comprehensive policy framework.
“Do this for families, and you have my vote,” said Richardson.
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications